MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Republican Senate nominee John Raese is hoping that concerns over Democratic cap and trade proposals will help propel him to a surprising victory in the special election to fill the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd's seat.
In an interview with RealClearPolitics on Sunday, Raese said that his campaign will launch a new television ad on Tuesday hitting his opponent-Democratic Governor Joe Manchin-for pushing through the state legislature last year the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act, which compelled West Virginia's utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from alternative energy sources by 2025.
"We call it cap and trade Manchin-style," Raese said. "Do the people of West Virginia trust a governor in the state of West Virginia who has already implemented cap and trade here in West Virginia? They're a little concerned about sending him to Washington right now."
In an interview later in the day during his visit to the National Hunting and Fishing Days event in Roanoake, Manchin laughed off Raese's criticism of the law and said that he would not have done anything differently in enacting it.
"Tell him he should read it first," Manchin said. "The coal industry helped put it together."
Manchin said that he would not support a cap and trade bill at the national level and has "gone toe to toe" with President Obama on the issue, even as Raese has worked relentlessly to portray the two Democrats as kindred spirits politically.
A fixture of Republican politics in West Virginia for the better part of three decades, Raese has twice run unsuccessfully as his party's Senate nominee and once as a gubernatorial primary challenger.
As he waited to take off on a private jet for a Washington, D.C., fundraising jaunt, Raese appeared confident that this would finally be his year, even as he faces a popular incumbent governor who until recently was widely expected to cruise to victory in the Senate race.
A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Raese with a three-point lead among likely voters, while a Rasmussen Reports poll had Manchin ahead by seven percent.
"Today you can be a good governor in the state of West Virginia, let's say, or at least have a high popularity rate," Raese said. "But a lot of people in the state don't want to send him to be the next vote for Barack Obama, and it seems Democrats pretty much vote rank and file as Obama wants them to."
Dressed in black from head to toe with his cowboy boots resting by the airport lounge's fireplace, Raese confidently cited statistics and elaborated upon talking points with the ease of a seasoned political veteran.
Like his opponent, Raese radiated laid-back West Virginia charm as he answered questions on a wide range of topics. But unlike Manchin, Raese, who has come under fire for maintaining a rarefied lifestyle and elaborate family residence in Florida, carried little hint of Appalachian English in his voice.
Still, Raese appeared equally at ease in sharing memories of his nonagenarian grandmother's aptitude with a shotgun as he did in offering his favorable impressions of Sean Connery, which he formed upon meeting the actor at a party in Palm Beach.
When Raese mentioned that the logistics of campaigning had changed slightly during this cycle due to the advent of "Facepage" and "Tweeter," it was difficult to tell whether he truly was confounded by the names of the social networking services or was simply putting his audience on.
Even as he joked that the tea party movement was "a little bit to the left" of his worldview, Raese was decidedly serious about his hardcore conservatism.
He said that he "violently opposed" the federal stimulus funds that Manchin accepted for the state, wanted to abolish the Department of Education (and potentially the Department of Energy), and favored congressional term limits.
Turning back to the coal industry, Raese said that he had "zero" belief in the idea that human activity was contributing to climate change.
"The oceans that surround the world produce 185 billion tons of CO2 per annum. Man per annum only produces six billion tons, so what could possibly be the concern?" Raese said. "One volcano puts out more toxic gases-one volcano-than man makes in a whole year. And when you look at this ‘climate change,' and when you look at the regular climate change that we all have in the world, we have warm and we have cooling spells."
Manchin was more ambivalent about what he described the "scientific discord" on climate change but was adamant that his policies had not cost the state any jobs.
"My main concern is the security of this nation," Manchin said. "If you want to shut Iran down from having a nuclear armament, then shouldn't you shut the cash off that goes to them from buying their product? How do you do that? You can't unless you become more energy independent. And we can do it."
Manchin's push to invest in alternative energy sources is one that has made inroads nationally in recent years, but Raese is banking his candidacy on the idea that it will remain a tough case to sell in the heart of coal country.